13 words we borrowed from

Arabic Language: 13 words we borrowed from

Arabic Language: 13 words we borrowed

13 words we borrowed from Arabic

Arabic Language is one of the five most spoken languages in the world, with some 400 million users.

It’s also one of the most ancient, varied and beautifully scripted languages in existence.

Its influence on Spanish since the time of the Moors is well known. However, what’s less well known is how many commonly used English words were from Arabic Language. In addition, Arabic words entered the English language through a number of ways.

Here are just thirteen words we borrowed from Arabic Language

  1. Alcohol

One of the most important words in the English language actually comes from the Arabic. al-kuhl, (the kohl) which is a form of eyeliner.

Because the cosmetic was made via an extraction process from a mineral. European chemists began to refer to anything involving extraction / distillation as alcohol.

And that’s how the “alcohol of wine” (i.e. the spirit you get from distilling wine) got its name.

  1. Algebra

From the Arabic al-jabr, which describes a reunion of broken parts. The use of the term came from a 9th century Arabic Language treatise on math.

The author’s name was al-Khwarizmi, which is the mathematical term algorithm.

  1. Artichoke

The classical Arabic Language word, al-harshafa. It is al-karshufa in Arabic-speaking Spain.

It is in French as artichaut, Italian as carciofo, Spanish as alcachofa, and English as artichoke.

  1. Candy

Qand refers to crystallised juice of sugar cane. It is where Americans derive their word candy.

It originally came from Sanksrit, and camr into Arabic Language via the Persian language.

  1. Coffee

Firstly, Arabia originally got coffee from eastern Africa and called it qahwah.

Then it went to Turkey – kahve.

Then the Italians – caffè.

Finally, it arrived in Britain as coffee.

  1. Cotton

This plant is originally native to India and Central/South America,

  1. Magazine

This word came from the Arabic makzin, which means storehouse.

We got it from the French (magasin, meaning shop). They got it from the Italians (magazzino), who got it from the Arabic Language.

  1. Mattress

Sleeping on cushions was actually an Arabic Language invention.

However, Were it not for Arabic matrah. However, the Europeans would never have adopted materacium / materatium (Latin). Also, they passed through Italian into English as mattress.

  1. Orange

Originally from South and East Asia, oranges were known in Sanskrit as naranga

Also, this became the Persian narang, which became the Arabic naranj.

Arabic traders brought oranges to Spain, which led to the Spanish naranja.

Then it went into old French as un norenge, then new French as une orenge

Finally, we took it from the French. 

  1. Safari

Safari is the Swahili word for an expedition, which is  so associated with African bush and game tourism.

However, that Swahili word came from the Arabic safar, which means journey.

  1. Sofa

The Arabic Language word suffa referred to a raised, carpeted platform on which people sat.

The word passed through the Turkish language to join English as sofa.

  1. Sugar

Arabic traders brought sugar to Western Europe, calling it sukkar (originally from teh Sanskrit sharkara).

And last but not least…

  1. Zero

Italian mathematician Fibonacci introduced the concept of zero to the Europeans in the 13th century.

He grew up in North Africa, and learned the Arabic Languageword sifr, which means empty or nothing.

He Latinised it to zephrum.

Because Roman numerals couldn’t express zero, he borrowed the number from Arabic Language.

Now, all our digits are known as Arabic numerals.

Alwasil Language Institute